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Agorism is a political philosophy founded by Samuel Edward Konkin III and developed with contributions by J. Neil Schulman that holds as its ultimate goal bringing about a society in which all "relations between people are voluntary exchanges – a free market." The term comes from the Greek word "agora," referring to an open place for assembly and market in ancient Greek city-states. Ideologically, it is a term representing a revolutionary type of free-market anarchism. According to Konkin, Schulman integrated the idea of counter-economics, the advocacy of untaxed black market activity, into Konkin's libertarian philosophy.
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Konkin's treatise New Libertarian Manifesto, was published in 1980. Previously, the philosophy had been presented in J. Neil Schulman's science fiction novel Alongside Night in 1979. Ayn Rand's example, presenting her ideas in the form of a work of fiction in Atlas Shrugged, had inspired Schulman to do likewise. Konkin's afterword to the novel, "How Far Alongside Night?", credited Schulman with integrating the "science of counter-economics" with Konkin's basic economic philosophy.
Agorists are propertarians who may consider themselves market anarchists; however, this is contentious, since anarchism has historically been a movement and social theory that has vehemently opposed not only the state, but also private property and capitalism—though the definition of "capitalism" used by anarcho-capitalists and some agorists differs from the definition used by most other anarchists. Agorists consider property rights to be natural rights deriving from the primary right of self-ownership. Thus, together with agorism's advocacy of using counter-economics and private defense to defeat the state, agorism can be considered a type of anarcho-capitalism that has a revolutionary streak. For a discussion, see Discussion on Agorism vs. Anarcho-Capitalism. Agorists consider their ideas to be an evolution and superlation of those of Murray Rothbard. Konkin describes agorists as "strict Rothbardians... and even more Rothbardian than Rothbard [himself]."
Strategically, agorists are advocates or conscious practitioners of counter-economics (peaceful black and grey markets). Agorism advocates achieving a market anarchist society through growth of the underground economy – the "counter economy." As the counter economy expands, it challenges the authority of the State, crippling its ability to operate. With the State's coercive monopoly undermined, the market is then able to generate the security services necessary to openly defend their clientele against coercive government as a criminal activity (with taxation being treated as theft, war being treated as mass murder, et cetera). The organisational nature of these services will ultimately be determined by the market based on effectiveness, efficiency, and expense. Agorists spurn political participation in favour of counter-economics, as political participation is seen to be costly, time consuming, and ineffective. Involvement in advocacy and outreach activities are motivated by the goal of making more people aware of Agorism and counter-economics, indirectly increasing the conscious practice of counter-economic activity.
Agorism's proponents characterize it as a form of left-libertarianism. According to Konkin, it was Murray Rothbard's idea to call his and Konkin's radical free-market libertarianism "Left," the reasons being that they wanted to use a label that was appealing to the New Left to solidify an alliance with them and to distinguish Agorists as those interested in building counter-economic enterprises. As well, the tendency of Agorists to label themselves "leftist" is partially a nod to the old French Assembly, where many of the classical liberals and free-marketeers sat on the left side of the assembly hall. In this view that considers radical libertarians "Left", libertarians based in minarchism, gradualism, conservatism, and reformism are considered to be on the "Right." The labeling of market anarchism as left-wing libertarianism is not accepted by some scholars, such as David DeLeon, who regard "anarchists" that stress "the individualism of the unregulated marketplace" to be right-wing libertarians, with left-wing libertarians being communitarians such as anarcho-communists. Likewise, Barbara Goodwin regards anarcho-communists such as Kropotkin and anarcho-collectivists such as Bakunin to be left libertarians.
Counter-economics as revolutionary theory
According to a short summary of the Agorist conception of market anarchist revolution, Agorist Revolution in a Nutshell:
Agorism is revolutionary market anarchism. In ... market anarchist society, law and security will be provided by market institutions, not political institutions. Agorists recognize, therefore, that those institutions can not develop through political reform. Instead, they will come about as a result of market processes. As government is banditry, revolution culminates in the suppression of government by market providers of security and law. Market demand for such service providers is what will lead to their emergence. Development of that demand will come from economic growth in the sector of the economy that explicitly shuns state involvement (and therefore can not turn to the state in its role as monopoly provider of security and law). That sector of the economy is the counter-economy – black and grey markets.
— Brad Spangler, Agorist Revolution in a Nutshell
Most anarchists — that is, anti-capitalists who oppose profit-driven markets as well as the nation-state — find the notion of anarchist "law" and "security" peculiar, as such concepts are normally attached to a statist police force.
Views on capitalism
Agorists hold that the evils attributed to capitalism are not caused by laissez-faire but by government working together with private industry. By preferring the term "free market," Agorists feel they are not bound by the implications of the term "capitalism".
Konkin does not oppose the existence of joint stock companies, but opposes government-granted limited liability privileges on them (He reserves the term "corporation" to refer only to joint stock companies for which government grants limited liability.). Agorists believe this corrupts those businesses such that the upper management acts irresponsibly with corporate assets. For example, if such businesses excessively pay executives and are then unable to meet contractual debts, many state laws protect the wages of those responsible for the bankruptcy. Agorists argue that liability cannot simply disappear by act of government and so legitimate business will always have managers or owners who will be held responsible for any actions taken.
Konkin says "it is obvious that there are no moral (other than individual self-worth) questions involved in organization and hierarchy," but Konkin says that he prefers to promote a society of all entrepreneurs and independent contractors because he believes it optimal for furthering the elimination of the state.
Konkin was opposed to the concept of intellectual property rights and wrote the article "Copywrongs" to explain and support this position. Schulman later took a position against Konkin's arguments in "Informational Property: Logorights." While Konkin opposed state copyright and patent laws as constructs of the state, and creators of illegitimate monopoly, as did Benjamin Tucker before him, Schulman argued, like Lysander Spooner, that the material identity displayed by an original creation could be owned as an exclusive natural property right.
Agorist class theory
The use of the word "capitalism" in reference to the free market varies from each Agorist. Some Agorists, like Anarcho-Capitalists will use the term synonymously with "free market", while many don't and shun the term for its connotations with the state regulated economy. Regardless, Agorists maintain a class theory that separates each class based on who benefits from the state's existence under Capitalism. Agorists make a three-part distinction, victims of the state, neutral or statist.
entrepreneur or venture capitalist non-statist capitalist pro-statist capitalist (good) (neutral) (bad) innovator, risk-taker, producer
the strength of a free market
holders of capital
not necessarily ideologically aware
"relatively drone-like non-innovators"
"the main Evil in the political realm"
Konkin claimed that while agorists see these three classes differently, anarcho-capitalists tend to conflate the first and second types and implied that "Marxoids and cruder collectivists" conflate all three.
Generally, self-identified "agorists" oppose voting for political candidates and oppose political reform. Instead, agorists stress the importance of alternative strategies rather than politics to achieve a free society. Agorists claim that we can achieve a free society more easily and sooner by employing such alternative methods.
Such alternative strategies consist of a mixture of education, direct action — and especially entrepreneurship and counter-economics. Agorists advocate promoting awareness of libertarian political theory, and libertarian ethics, and Austrian economics. Furthermore, they emphasize direct action in the form of marketplace participation rather than voting for political representatives. Agorists especially focus on counter-economics, in which they seek to build and establish business structures without complying with state regulations, government licenses, or paying taxes. Other entrepreneurial methods may include establishing micronations and seasteads, using crypto-anarchism to circumvent government intrusion, and developing technologies that can diminish government power. Agorists, who practice alternative strategies rather than electoral politics, see their strategy as revolutionary. This strongly contrasts with electoral politics, which agorists describe as reformist or gradualist.
"Konkin’s entire theory speaks only to the interests and concerns of the marginal classes who are self-employed. The great bulk of the people are full-time wage workers; they are people with steady jobs. Konkinism has nothing whatsoever to say to these people. To adopt Konkin’s strategy, then, would on this ground alone, serve up a dead end for the libertarian movement. We cannot win if there is no possibility of speaking to the concerns of the great bulk of wage earners in this and other countries."
- Economic secession
- Informal economy
- Individualist anarchism
- Mutualism (economic theory)
- Movement of the Libertarian Left
- Free State Project
- ^ a b Konkin, Samuel Edward. New Libertarian Manifesto
- ^ "Agorism is revolutionary market anarchism." Agorism.info
- ^ Afterword by Samuel Edward Konkin in Alongside Night. Pulpless.Com, 1999. p. 274. ISBN 1-58445-120-3, 9781584451204
- ^ Afterword by Samuel Edward Konkin in Alongside Night. Pulpless.Com, 1999. p. 271–290. ISBN 1-58445-120-3, 9781584451204
- ^ a b c d Smashing the State for Fun and Profit Since 1969: An Interview With the Libertarian Icon Samuel Edward Konkin III (a.k.a. SEK3)
- ^ For Konkin's definition and exposition of counter-economics, see "Counter Economics" in The New Libertarian Manifesto
- ^ DeLeon, David. The American as Anarchist: Reflections on Indigenous Radicalism. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978, p. 123
- ^ Goodwin, Barbara. 1987. Using Political Ideas, 4th edition. John Wiley & Sons. p. 137–138
- ^ Schulman, Neil F. Alongside Night. Pulpless.Com, 1999. p. 249–250. ISBN 1-58445-120-3, 9781584451204
- ^ Konkin. New Libertarian Manifesto
- ^ In "Reply to Rothbard" by Samuel Konkin
- ^ Note that an entrepreneur in this instance is not necessarily a capitalist.
- ^ Rothbard, Murray N. The State versus Liberty.
- ^ Rothbard, Murray. "Konkin on Libertarian Strategy". http://www.anthonyflood.com/rothbardkonkin.htm.
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